Procurement board silent on contract to controversial T&T company

The National Procurement and Tender Administration Board (NPTAB) was mum yesterday on the recent awarding of a US$154,154 contract to Trinidadian company, Western Scienti-fic, which was accused earlier this year of delivering expired or nearly expired drugs to the Ministry of Public Health.

At last week’s post-cabinet briefing, Minister of State Joseph Harmon announced that the company had secured a contract for the procurement of Sysmex reagents for the National AIDS Programme Secretariat.

The award of the contract to Western Scientific will raise further questions about the quality of the evaluation committees that are assessing the various bidders and whether the track record of the bidders is being taken into account. The NPTAB had said that it was going to widen the pool of evaluators. Concerns have been expressed in the past that evaluators are coming from the ministries and entities which are the procuring agencies and therefore the process can be contaminated.

Yesterday when Stabroek News made contact with NPTAB’s Chairman, Berkley Wickham and Chief Executive Officer, Donald DeClou they both declined to comment on how the company would have been able to make a successful bid for the procurement of medical supplies.

Western Scientific was one of a number of companies that Minister of Public Health, Volda Lawrence had told Parliament in June this year had delivered expired or nearly expired drugs to the Ministry.

In January of this year, a Board of Inquiry (BOI) into allegations of mismanagement and malpractices in the procurement of pharmaceuticals at the Ministry of Public Health had also recommended that the representative of Western Scientific be debarred from future tenders.

The recommendation came on the heels of information that an employee of the Public Health Ministry had conspired with the Western Scientific Representative to gain insider information.

A recommendation was also made for the removal of then Permanent Secretary Trevor Thomas. In March, Harmon had announced that Thomas was sacked following the recommendations of the BOI.

It was further recommended that Deputy Permanent Secretary Collette Adams be censured and disciplined for “breach/neglect in the performance of her duties”. However, in March following a reshuffling of permanent secretaries it was announced that Adams will now serve as the Permanent Secretary following the removal of Thomas.

Additionally, the BOI had said that the Trinidadian company was hostile to the BOI and failed to appear before it. The BOI also recommended that legal advice be sought over the reviewing of contracts awarded to the Western Scientific representative.

Back in November of 2016, the BOI was established by government to probe allegations of the unauthorized disclosure of information, mismanagement and malpractices in the procurement of pharmaceuticals.

Western Scientific was also debarred from Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) contracts for the period 2016 to 2020 for fraudulent practices. This related to its work in Guyana.

The employee of the company  cited by the IDB was the same one impugned by the BOI in January of this year.

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